Many older children and young adults will be familiar with Michael Morpurgo’s novel, Private Peaceful a story inspired by the 306 young soldiers who were executed by firing squad for cowardice during the First World War. The often-petty nature of these crimes led to posthumous pardons being granted in 2006, three years after the novel was published.
Scamp Theatre and Simon Reade’s adaptation of the novel returns to Edinburgh Fringe, before transferring to the West End, and embarking on a UK Tour. The plot is broadly similar to the novel, with some notable changes, but the storytelling aspect remains as expressively lucid, and the senselessness of war and injustice still shines through.
Private Peaceful is the story of Thomas ‘Tommo’ Peaceful, who recounts the details of his short life as he awaits his inevitable fate. From his childhood in Devon, which saw the early death of his Father in an accident, to his relationship with his brother, Charlie, and friend Molly. Tommo joins the army, despite being too young, to be with Charlie, and the consequences of these actions form the second part of the play.
Andy Daniel gives a wonderful performance, he is filled with youthful exuberance, describing in fascinating detail his friendship with Charlie and Molly, the first time they saw on aeroplane, or the time they went skinny dipping. There are also emotional moments as he describes his father’s death, and this continues in to the second half as the horrors of war are laid out in vivid detail.
As one of the longer Edinburgh productions at seventy-five minutes, it’s inspiring to see such a sustained performance, with neither the writing nor Daniel losing pace at any point. Private Peaceful will brings a cherished piece of literature to life and will delight audiences, whether they be young, or not-so-young.